In the newly-leaked video, Muthuvel (the person who took the video) asks whether the hostel officials had told her not to wear a bindi or pottu, to which Lavanya replies in the negative.

Screengrab from a video of Lavanya M, the Thanjavur student who died by suicideScreengrab
news Thanjavur student suicide case Thursday, January 27, 2022 - 10:26

A new video has emerged of 17-year-old student Lavanya who died by suicide in Thanjavur on January 19 — whose death has triggered a major row and a political fight in Tamil Nadu. In the newly-leaked video, which is two minutes and 24 seconds long, Lavanya narrates that she took the step to end her life after extra work by the hostel warden made her fall behind in her studies. Lavanya M lived in a boarding house called Sacred Hearts Higher Secondary School in Michaelpatti in Thanjavur, and the newly-leaked video was shot at the hospital where she was admitted before her death, by a person named Muthuvel, who is the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s Ariyalur District Secretary.

Lavanya’s death has stirred controversy in the state due to an early video in which she alleged that a nun at the hostel, Raquel Mary, had tried to force her and her parents to convert to Christianity two years ago. However, in this latest video, Lavanya makes no mention of the conversion.

TNM has accessed the newly-leaked video, where the student says that a sister at the hostel — the warden Sagaya Mary— made her do accounting work at the hostel in addition to her studies, which made her fall back on her academics. She says in the video that though she did not fully understand the accounts work, the warden would not listen and forced her to do the work. 

“Always the sister at the boarding would ask me to do the accounts. Even if I told her, ‘no sister, I came late, I don't understand anything, I'll do it later, she wouldn’t listen’. She would say, ‘it's okay, you first do the accounts and give, then do your own work’. She will keep making me do the accounts. Even if I write it correctly, she'll keep saying it's wrong and make me sit on it for at least an hour. I wasn't able to concentrate on my studies properly at all. I kept getting low marks. I thought if this keeps going on, I won't be able to study,” Lavanya says in the video. 

“From the time everyone wakes up, I have to open the gate, switch on the motor, after everyone has eaten, check if the motor is running properly, the warden will give me all the work….” Lavanya says in the video. 

In this new video, VHP leader Muthuvel also asks whether the hostel officials had told her not to wear a bindi or pottu, to which Lavanya replies in the negative.

Four videos, only one talks about conversion

TNM has learnt that there are a total of four videos that Muthuvel had recorded on his phone on January 17 when he went to the hospital, of which two videos have already been leaked. TNM has also learnt that police believe Muthuvel deleted this second video of Lavanya — which talks about her marks decreasing — from his phone. However, the investigating agencies have managed to retrieve the video from his phone as he had received it as a forward from another person. The police are investigating if Muthuvel forwarded the video to someone else before deleting it and it eventually came back to his phone as a forward.

Only one video out of the four videos captured by Muthuvel has any mention of conversion. The first video speaks about her personal details. The second video is the one that has newly been leaked. The third video is the now-viral video where Lavanya alleged that she was being forced to convert to Christianity. The fourth video is that of her stepmother, who is also expected to be questioned over reports that Lavanya had made a call to childline officials two years ago, alleging harassment by her stepmother.

Now, there are allegations that Lavanya may have been tutored to talk about the conversion angle in the last video that was captured, since in the newly leaked video, she even denies that she was forced not to wear a bindi. The police are investigating this angle too.

With the emergence of the newly-leaked video, the police are also investigating various angles pertaining to the four videos, as well as the chronology in which they were shot, and whether there was any coercion. As for the student's suicide, the police are investigating whether there was any torture by the school, whether there was any harassment from her stepmother, whether there was any attempt to convert the student and whether their refusal led to tension. 

Two days ago, the Madras High Court, hearing Lavanya’s father’s plea, had asked Muthuvel to surrender his phone to the police for investigation into the video that first went viral after her death. In that 44-second video, Lavanya can be heard saying that two years ago, a woman called Raquel Mary had asked her to convert to Christianity, which she and her parents refused. 

On January 15, Lavanya’s parents had first filed a complaint that the warden was making Lavanya do domestic chores and maintain account books. On January 16, at 4.10 pm, Lavanya’s last declaration was recorded on video by the Judicial Magistrate. A day after Lavanya’s death, her parents approached the police with the 44-second video clip alleging that the child was forced to convert.

So far, one arrest has been made in connection with Lavanya’s death — 62-year-old hostel warden Sagaya Mary was arrested on January 16 and sent to judicial custody. 

The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court is hearing Lavanya’s father’s plea seeking a CB-CID probe into his daughter’s death. The girl’s parents were directed to appear before the Thanjavur Judicial Magistrate and record their statements, which were submitted to the court in a sealed cover. The court had also asked Muthuvel to hand over his phone to the police and also asked the police not to ‘harass’ him over the video. “The focus of the police authorities should be on the circumstances that led to the suicide of the child and it cannot be directed against the person who had taken the video,” the High Court had said.

The court will hear the matter further on Friday, January 28. 

If you are aware of anyone facing mental health issues or feeling suicidal, please provide help. Here are some helpline numbers of suicide-prevention organisations that can offer emotional support to individuals and families.   

Tamil Nadu

State health department's suicide helpline: 104

Sneha Suicide Prevention Centre - 044-24640050 (listed as the sole suicide prevention helpline in Tamil Nadu)

Andhra Pradesh

Life Suicide Prevention: 78930 78930

Roshni: 9166202000, 9127848584

Karnataka

Sahai (24-hour): 080 65000111, 080 65000222

Kerala

Maithri: 0484 2540530

Chaithram: 0484 2361161

Both are 24-hour helpline numbers.

Telangana

State government's suicide prevention (tollfree): 104

Roshni: 040 66202000, 6620200

SEVA: 09441778290, 040 27504682 (between 9 amd and 7 pm)

Aasara offers support to inidviduals and families during an emotional crisis, for those dealing with mental health issues and suicidal ideation, and to those  undergoing trauma after the suicide of a loved one.

24x7 Helpline: 9820466726 

Click here for working helplines across India.

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